Dancers As Action Heroes
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen audiences enter the Park Avenue Armory for STREB: Kiss The Air, they will see a stadium of hardware and obstacles, complete with a pool, zip lines, a rotating 20-foot ladder, and a scaffold tower with three diving platforms. This is the STREB Extreme Action Company’s playground, where dancers fall, crawl, climb, and fly.
At a recent rehearsal at S.L.A.M (The Streb Lab for Action Mechanics) in Williamsburg, choreographer Elizabeth Streb’s performers were hard at work on Ascension, one “event” in the program’s lineup. In this section, they climb a 21-foot moving ladder, suspended between two iron platforms. The weight of the performers’ bodies makes the ladder spin, and as a group, they must negotiate timed exits and entrances (dives and drops) to stay attached to the structure.
Streb’s initial idea for the piece was an “eternal climb;” when dancers reach the top, the motion of the ladder places them right back down at the bottom. The timing is by “the skin of their teeth” (as one dancer put it), breathtaking in its danger and precision.
Streb watches closely without interfering with their method. “These dancers are methodologists, they’re engineers,” she remarks. Although they have been blocking the piece for weeks, she still leaves them room to dazzle with a new flipping descent, or a new speed at which they thread through rungs. “If we didn’t have to set something for stage, we would just explore this forever,” Streb says.
Kiss the Air does not rely on lengthy, choreographed works. Rather, dancers sequence through concise, impactful events. And while synchronicity is artistically important in many other dance works, here it is imperative to safety. Choreography is calculated to the fraction of a second, allowing for no hesitation.
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